Growing some winter-flowering lovelies; an icy celestial visitor; our acrostic quiz
It is always handy when a family member has a hobby, especially at Christmas. Unless, of course, it is just the one – my poor old dad positively blanched at the mention of yet another ‘how to play golf’ book and had a truly spectacular collection of every type of golf tee available. But boats and gardening – the variants are endless!
Happily, around October, garden centres start to fill up with all sorts of interesting ideas for the gardener – some of which I admit are a little dubious such as the pale pink gardening gloves. But boxes of growing kits always attract me and they are not bad for the boat either.
Everything is included in the box and all you have to do is assemble it and wait; a few seeds or bulbs, a little compost and a pot – perfect. After all, I doubt that a bag of compost would take precedence over a bag of coal during the winter months on a boat. I am especially fond of the boxed chilli kits but tomatoes, herbs or bulbs are all brilliant value for the on board gardener.
Of course, not much is happening in the ground and if you want anything to grow now you will just have to cheat and happily, thanks to modern horticultural practices, there will be plenty to choose from to create a colourful display. There will be the jewel like colourful primulas, dainty little cyclamen, winter pansies galore as well as the rather strangely coloured Ericas – does anyone actually buy orange, green or blue artificially- dyed plants?
When planting up some of these winter flowering lovelies, it is important to keep an eye on the watering, too little and the flowers will not develop and too much and they will be prone to mould. Grey mould sets in the centre of the plants rotting stems and leaves especially where the air is not circulating. Primulas and cyclamen tend to have tightly packed buds at their base so it is important to keep a look out for mould and immediately remove any affected leaves.
An alternative to flowering plants would be some of the small evergreen shrubs, many of which, such as skimmia, have beautiful berries to give some colour, but my favourite winter shrub is Christmas Box. Sarcoccoa (Christmas Box) is a small evergreen shrub, not very exciting to look at, but through the winter it has small white flowers that have the most amazing perfume.
So whether you enjoy a Christmas Box of the evergreen variety or a Christmas box with a gift inside, I hope you have a very Happy Christmas and look forward to next year’s gardening and boating!